On the day of the last practice before Cleveland's first preseason game, we're tackling a number of quality questions in this week's mailbag.
There was a lot of hype on the Scooby Wright pick. A steal is what I heard. I have not heard much on him since the draft. Does he have a legitimate chance on making the team? -- Matt K., Scottsdale, Arizona
We'll learn a lot more about Wright and the rest of this rookie class starting Friday in Green Bay. For a player such as Wright, a young rookie with plenty to prove at a competitive position, the preseason means everything. Expect to see plenty of him against the Packers and beyond.
At practice, Wright has typically worked alongside undrafted rookie free agent Dominique Alexander with the third-team defense. Ahead of them at inside linebacker are projected starters Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey followed by veterans Tank Carder and Justin Tuggle.
"Scooby and Dominique Alexander are great pickups for us," Browns inside linebackers coach Johnny Holland said last week. "Those two are very hard workers for one, and they are learning our defense and are athletic guys, physical guys that can run. Scooby is a guy that's very instinctive. He had a lot of production in college, and it's showing up on the practice field now. He has a natural knack to get to the ball."
For what it's worth, the Browns kept four inside linebackers on their initial 53-man roster last year.
I hear all kinds of news on Coleman, Pryor, Hawkins, Gordon and Higgins … haven't heard much about Louis and Payton. Could you tell me how they have looked or are they just practice squad players? Thanks. -- Mike D, Elizabethton, Tennessee
It's a crowded wide receivers room, for sure, so it's hard to cover them all. Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton have primarily worked with the second- and third-team offenses while picking up significant work on special teams. For each of these players, earning trust on special teams paves a clearer path to the 53-man roster.
Louis said Tuesday he's put more of an emphasis on the finer points of being an NFL receiver. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he's among the most athletically gifted of the group. Associate head coach - offense Pep Hamilton called Louis a "poor man's Andre Johnson," and Louis considered that a great compliment.
Payton had some catching up to do when training camp began because he missed all of OTAs and minicamp. The last few days have been good for him, especially the two scrimmages Friday and Saturday. At each event, Payton turned an intermediate catch into a long gain by breaking a tackle in the secondary. He's not the flashiest receiver of the group but he has the capability to be among the most physical.
"My mindset was to come here and just go at it and learn everything you can," Payton said. "I would say yes, the catch up thing is gone, and now, it's about just fully understanding everything."
Tuesday was Day 10 of the Browns Training Camp in Berea.
How is Derrick Kindred looking? -- Brent H., Lombard, Illinois
Kindred has primarily worked with the second- or third-team defense and is competing with the likes of veteran Rahim Moore Sr., Pierre Desir and Sean Baker for a spot in the safety room. His situation could be similar to the one Ibraheim Campbell found himself in last year at this time. Working behind veteran Donte Whitner, Campbell didn't receive a ton of opportunities at safety as a rookie but got plenty of work on special teams. Kindred still has time to work himself into the first-safety-off-the-bench role, which requires the versatility to play both strong and free.
With all the rookies in camp, and the potential/character they seem to have been drafted for, what will happen to the players that are cut? Does the practice squad have room for them? What is the limit on the practice squad? -- Ted P., Lakefield, Minnesota
Here are some practice squad basics heading into the 2016 season.
• The NFL will continue to allow teams to have 10 players on their practice squad. That's up from the eight-player max before 2014.
• A recent change has allowed teams to have as many as four of the 10 be players who have as much as two accrued seasons of experience. This doesn't apply to the rookies in your question, but it's worth noting.
• For a rookie who doesn't make the initial 53-man roster to be available for the Browns practice squad, he'll have to first clear waivers. Every NFL team is also at risk to lose a player from its practice squad if another squad offers them a spot on their 53-man roster. For example, the Browns lost linebacker Hayes Pullard, a seventh-round pick in the 2015 draft, a few weeks into the season to the Jaguars. If a player is signed off another team's practice squad, he must be paid for at least three weeks at the league minimum.
At this point who do you project as the OL starting five? -- Norman B., Sierra Vista, Arizona
Well, I certainly like Joe Thomas' chances. Otherwise, the group has largely been settled outside of right tackle, with Joel Bitonio at left guard, Cameron Erving at center and John Greco at right guard. The competition at right tackle is four-deep, as Austin Pasztor is the latest to work with the first team. Pasztor was very solid last season and should be considered a serious contender. He got a strong endorsement from Thomas earlier this week and has the most experience of any of the four at right tackle.